Polyphenolic phytochemicals--just antioxidants or much more?

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2007 Nov;64(22):2900-16. doi: 10.1007/s00018-007-7237-1.


Polyphenolic phytochemicals are ubiquitous in plants, in which they function in various protective roles. A 'recommended' human diet contains significant quantities of polyphenolics, as they have long been assumed to be 'antioxidants' that scavenge excessive, damaging, free radicals arising from normal metabolic processes. There is recent evidence that polyphenolics also have 'indirect' antioxidant effects through induction of endogenous protective enzymes. There is also increasing evidence for many potential benefits through polyphenolic-mediated regulation of cellular processes such as inflammation. Inductive or signalling effects may occur at concentrations much lower than required for effective radical scavenging. Over the last 2-3 years, there have been many exciting new developments in the elucidation of the in vivo mechanisms of the health benefits of polyphenolics. We summarise the current knowledge of the intake, bio-availability and metabolism of polyphenolics, their antioxidant effects, regulatory effects on signalling pathways, neuro-protective effects and regulatory effects on energy metabolism and gut health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Diet
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Flavonoids / metabolism
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Phenols / metabolism
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Polyphenols
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antioxidants
  • Flavonoids
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Phenols
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols